I Love Tacos

We’re two days away from National Suicide Prevention Month – a month where I stress the importance of both suicide awareness and prevention, and then hopefully convince you to support my team. However, it’s still August, and that means you get a Beth story instead. Not that the other posts won’t include a healthy dose of Beth-ness, but this one is more like a typical post – one featuring a story about me tripping along through life – you know, like I do.

I’d been wanting to volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for awhile. I know, I know, I said this post wasn’t about that, and it’s not – just roll with it a bit. Then an opportunity finally presented itself that matched up with my schedule: Pride Austin! Fantastic, support my friends, support a great cause, and I’d get to go to a festival. All wins! Of course, I signed up. My good friend Anna hopped on board as well as her son, Adam, and we had the makings of a plan – of a fun weekend adventure. Off we went!

We arrived in the heat of the day, and when I say “heat of the day,” it’s not a polite way of saying, “Golly, it sure is hot.” I mean it was, “Let’s buy a case of water each, haul it around in a wagon that will get lighter and lighter by the minute, and still hope we don’t die of heatstroke” hot. The kind of hot where you look at syrupy drinks or snow cones and your stomach and brain chime in with a huge, “Nope!” because all of that just sounds gross. It was so hot, I heard more than one person start a sentence with, “It’s hotter than the devil’s…” (The noun and the description of the aforementioned noun changed depending on the person. Some easily fell into the “Eww, that was really specific and colorful” category, but all descriptions let you know that any Satanic body part was still not as hot as an August day in Texas.) My favorite nephew, aka friend’s son, aka Adam, immediately headed for the fan vendor where he purchased this gigantic “Clack” fan – both a brand name and a descriptor. Personally, I don’t recall ever wanting a fan from a festival as a souvenir; however, at that moment, I wanted it more than anything (other than maybe more water). Forget those sad little pieces of flimsy cardboard stapled to a stick, this thing was amazing and produced focused gale-force winds. Also, it happened to be quite stylish. The boy has taste. He became quite the accomplished aunt-fanner that day.

We had some time before our volunteer assignment, so we walked around, checked out the booths, picked up all sorts of free items – stickers, buttons, bracelets, temporary tattoos. We even scored t-shirts, towels, and sunglasses. It was fantastic! There were a ton of things to look at and buy, and that’s when I found a place selling t-shirts.

I can’t tell you much about the actual shop, I can only tell you that they had a shirt on display declaring its appreciation for tacos with a big, “I LOVE TACOS!” on the front. This made complete sense because tacos, as we all can agree, are pretty great. Who doesn’t love tacos? As a Texan, my love for them is right behind my love for my state, Molly Ivins, a field of bluebonnets, armadillos, and Shiner Bock. Ok, I’m not really a beer person, but if I’m ordering beer, I order Shiner Bock and then feel Texas proud. Corona? Oh, please. Don’t insult me with your near-Coors.

I think I may have pointed at the shirt, and whether I pointed or not, I do know I said quite loudly, “I LOVE TACOS!!” Again, because of all of those reasons (Tacos, Texas, Armadillos, etc. – keep up!).

A look of maybe what could be described as “confused alarm” went across both Anna and Adam’s faces, while I carried on about the shirt and my commitment to my adoration of tacos. Finally, one of them, then both of them tried to shut down my jubilant loud celebration of tacos and my desire to own the shirt, which really fueled the “I want to scream it from the roofs” fire. Adam implored, “Aunt Beth, stop saying that!” I feel he also may have implied I might be having a heat stroke, but nonetheless my response was a firm “No!” I mean, Tacos! LOVE ‘EM!!! I won’t be shamed for my Tex-Mex food love!!

I moved off the taco topic as we moved further away from the object of my culinary desire. I’m easily distracted.

After we finished volunteering, which went really well despite the heat, and we left behind our puddles of sweat, we went to find dinner. Nothing quite “beats the heat” like AC, fluids, and ice cream. Then we decided to do some shopping. Needless to say, in one of the stores was another shirt professing taco adoration. This one had pictures of tacos – corn shells filled with meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. I exposed it on the rack by shoving the less worthy shirts around, and made it so the logo and wording could be clearly seen, then I turned to Anna and Adam. The need to declare my taco love was rekindled. And here’s how that conversation played out. It’s not an actual transcript, because my memory isn’t that great, but it captures the spirit. It’s how I “felt” it went, so yeah… take it with a huge grain of salt, too.

Me: Look! Another shirt! I love tacos!

Anna/Adam: (synchronized exhausted sighs)

Me: You won’t repress my love now. (I’m sure I didn’t say “repressed,” but in my stories, I’m quite clever and well-spoken. In reality, I kind of just grunt and gesture emphatically to convey what I want/need.)

Anna/Adam: (more synchronized exhausted sighing combined with maybe a hint of an eye roll)

Anna: What do you think tacos are?

Me: (duh look on my face) Crunchy-shelled OR soft-tortilla goodness stuffed with lettuce, cheese, and some kind of meat.

Anna: That’s not what they mean. Where were you today?

Me: Pride.

Anna: (just waiting – giving me the look of “Go on Beth’s brain, please catch up.”)


Me: OHHH!!! OH NO!!!! No! I don’t like tacos. I mean, tacos are fine, but umm… 

Anna then burst out laughing as she watched all of that play out across my face.

It reminded me of the time I had to explain a “beavers” reference to my aunt after visiting a Bucc-ee’s while thinking, “Your mother would not be very happy with the words coming out of your face right now.” Only I was my aunt in this scenario.

So, let me say that I do still love tacos; however, the idea of buying the shirt is now off the table. Let me also be very specific and state the kind of tacos I happen to love are the kind listed on menus in local Tex-Mex restaurants. You’re free to love tacos any way you choose, and I’ll support your taco affection. Just make sure the enjoyment of all tacos is consensual.

Anyway, now that I’ll be the butt of many jokes to come, I will say that I’m looking forward to cooler weather and Oktoberfest. I hear several events will host Sausage Fests in celebration! Probst! Cheers to Fall!

P.S. Ryan



I feel like I tricked you into following my blog by stating I was occasionally funny. I swear, I try not to do the above (or I guess it’s technically below on your screen) on a regular basis; however, your uncle and I were talking about communication etiquette yesterday (blame him), and we felt I had to go there. Don’t give up on me yet. I swear, one day, I’ll post something that might get a smile out of you. Also, it was great meeting you; you are just as cool as your uncle has bragged. I’m so glad to finally see you in person after hearing so much good about you over the years.


To the rest of you,

The same message to you guys as well, and also – you should really meet Ern’s nephew Ryan; he’s really awesome. (Would you tell him I’m sometimes funny?)

Sweet Fresh Hell

“What sweet fresh hell is that?” This is how I greet most things I don’t expect before 6am especially at the gym. This is applied universally to things like people spazzing out on the rower in a way that makes me stop dead in my tracks and stare (Dude, the rower actually isn’t supposed to be making that noise or doing that. What is that? What is wrong with you?) to a new piece of equipment like “the tank” appearing with its monster truck wheels and bondage ropes wrapped neatly around it. I swear we accidentally conjured that thing up after many of us celebrated the demise of the sled. Gym karma can suck. What were we thinking as we gleefully danced around? That was rhetorical. We were thinking, “YAY!!! Good riddance, sled with your wonky carpet strip!” Oh, and quick side story about the sled, did I ever mention to you guys that Jenn used to stand on it while hurling “words of encouragement” at me as I ran it down the basketball court? Good because that never happened, but man that would have been awful, right? Totally humiliating. Anyway, we were glad when it died, and absolutely horrified when the sled on steroids aka “the Tank” showed up proving a sled could be made worse. FYI, it appears to be much sturdier and more rugged than the sled. I’m not entirely sure a well-placed spike strip could take it out.

So, I walk into the gym today. It’s crack of too early. I’m still wrestling with the idea that I have to get up ALL THE DAYS, and that  apparently fitness doesn’t happen on a couch while binge watching Supernatural. (I’ve been trying this out in the evenings. I feel I need more data points to confirm.)  And there blocking my way to the locker room and waving in all its “what the fresh Hell glory” looms something called a SkiErg. No seriously. A SkiErg. (An advertising firm should be fired. Just my opinion.) And I’m thinking, “What the… Nope! No. Mmm mm. Not having it. Don’t like it. Disapprove.” And right next to it is something called who knows what, but it’s a never-ending rope pulley whatever – probably has an equally bad name. My glasses aren’t on, and fact: if a thing doesn’t have a name, because no way you can decipher the ridiculous sport font hieroglyphics identifying it, then it isn’t real. That’s a thing, John.

These dueling odious little eyesores stand proudly in the designated functional training area paying homage to their Medieval torture device predecessors. Note: This is the same area I spend my Tuesdays in, because Tuesday is my training day and… Oh FRAK! It’s Tuesday. Seriously??? Are you !@#$!-ing me??? And despite it being too early, and me being with zero of the caffeine, I’m able to reason that new brands of torture + training day = Beth being a guinea pig. Come on!

Jenn goes on to demonstrate said new stupidness, which then leads to me fussing about the unfairness of my “guinea pig for the gym status,” as is my right. Jenn then points out that no, she just used them first. Then, with a certain air of gym entitlement, she announces she’s claiming the coveted guinea pig title. Are you kidding me??? I found this all quite suspect, and made much noise about it.  We moved on to the next set of activities, and that’s when she forced me, forced I tell you, to demo the new rope pulley thing for the gym as well, and I swear it was only because I was watching various people approach it, stare at it while trying to work out how this might wreck their lives, too, and a few pre-caffeinated remarks may have come out. Which, by the way, were spot-on and deserved. Super clever lines like “I’m watching the guy behind you try to figure out the rope thing.” Yeah, that’s right. I’m able to whip out that level of clever in the early morning. Fear me.  I mean I was mid doing some super impressive things with arm weights that heralded the need to decrease the weight immediately, wowing my fellow gym-mates, and was right on the heels of revealing some equally awkward arm raising ability, and Jenn announces we’re going to do the rope pulley thing, too as if the SkiUgh wasn’t humiliation enough. That activity wasn’t on the paper listing our day’s routing. I looked. I mean in truth nothing was, which isn’t the point. Still, she claimed that she had it all in her head, but I don’t think the pulley thing was really ever in there. There’s no proof. (For the record, when it comes to the new things that have appeared in the gym that I was also forced to do, there was “the Tank” last week, and the week before I was on a cruise, so well that doesn’t count, but like weeks before that was the fresh hell that was the squishy rocking thing, and who even knows what that thing actually is – maybe a BOSU pill box capsule thingy? I have no idea. It’s new. It’s squishy. I don’t like it. And why? Why all the new things when no one is on the rowing machine. Maybe the rowing machine needs some love?) Also, me doing the new pulley thing meant all eyes (or maybe one set) were on me. It was like I was on stage… for an audience of one, but seriously?

So, we did those. But my story isn’t over. Nope.  As I’m using the new thing, pulling down with all my half-hearted heart. Jenn is reading the info on the side of the machine, which who knew there were words on a thing that I’m refusing to acknowledge even has a name in my endeavor to not allow it to be real, and she says, “you can do pull downs” (what we were doing) “and pull ups.” I say I want to be the first to try the pull ups, and she says she’s going to do it first. THEN SHE RACES ME TO DO IT FIRST!!! Seriously. I don’t get to be the official guinea pig for the new machines, and now I don’t get to be the first to even do the pull up part? Are you kidding me?  And here’s the worst part… THEN! THEN she says, “you can write about it in your blog” all smug like. Mmm hmm. Said it to MY FACE!

Well, I showed her! That’s right, Jenn. I wrote about you in my little blog.

Honestly, the little indignities I suffer…

(Note to all of you literal types: I AM KIDDING! Well no, this all happened, but Jenn is the best and we did try new things today, and she did actually give me grief about writing in my blog. I just wanted to clear that up, and make a note that I’m joking, because well… some of you guys… wow.)

LIfe Lessons from the Trailer Park

When last we chatted I believe I convinced you that I had in fact been born (remember that picture of a random baby? surely that was me – I hinted as such), and proclaimed that I “grew up” in a trailer park.  It turns out “growing up” encompasses approximately 3 years; I was a fast grower.

It also turns out (lots of things turning today) you can learn a lot about life in a trailer park in only a few years.  Here are a few of my take-aways:

  • Ponies are angry little equine jerks whose backsides should be avoided at all costs.  Just because you’re little and it’s little, and it has those impossibly big, inviting eyes doesn’t mean there’s a special bond.  The back-kick to the chest is not a love thump or thank you for the sweet sweet weeds picked with tender love and care.  Trailer ponies (a distinct breed) are treacherous, bi-polar, and should be avoided at all cost. Now when I see a pony I make sure to point at my eyes and then to theirs, so they’re keenly aware I’m watching them.  I then nibble on the carrots brought for the more lovely quarter horses (whose hind sides I also avoid) chewing slowly and defiantly.  Thank you pony for showing me the lay of the field when I was 5.  For the record “My Pretty Pony” is a pack of lies!
  • Ice cream men trailer park dwellers are much like ponies, but not as endearing.  You can read one of my first posts about how I tried to kill the neighborhood ice cream man at this age here:  Death to the Ice Cream Man   (trust me, he had it coming)
  • Trailer parks are a great place to discard your fresh deer carcass. Everyone loves driving by a bloody rib cage, and hey the dogs love to romp around with the lower parts of the legs.  I know my dog loved it!  
  • The single older gentleman who lives in the streamline up the way and offers up fudgsicles to you and your friend Rudy (if you’ll only come inside and sit with him a bit) is totally on the up-and-up despite what your mother says. “Don’t go over there anymore” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Good thing you are a pro at translating “Mom”.
  • The edges of the park are surrounded by mud that will suck the shoes off your feet (and your Mom’s).  Do not attempt to cross without an adult with strong legs and determination.
  • “Why did their trailer catch on fire?” “Insurance” makes absolutely no sense as an explanation when you’re 5.  However, the added words “and you and Rudy stay out of there, it’s dangerous” clearly means, “it’s ok as long as I don’t know about it.” Again, you’re a Mom translating pro!  Sadly, our legs were too short and the steps up to the trailer were removed after the burned-out husk was deposited in the nearby field, but it didn’t stop Rudy or I from looking in that fire gutted place on numerous occasions longingly.
  • People can get freaky about caterpillars (dude, it’s not an asp – I’m holding it my hand), but hey if you agree to throw it in the street, you’ll get a reward like another fudgsicle (assuming you’re not already full on fudgsicles from that friendly/lonely guy in the streamline).
  • Placing a swing set on concrete is a cruel idea.  You’re not a gymnast.  You were told not to play on it without an adult.  It’s best to suck in those tears over your cracked skull, because your Mom is going to be so mad if she finds out. Remember, everything is fair game as long as Mom doesn’t know.  But OUCH!!!!.  Again, I curse kid physics for the oopsie that led to the brain injury, but it does explain so much now.
  • Swarming yellow jackets are only slightly better than trailer ponies, and they’re infinitely better than unapologetic, dog-killing, ice cream men.  It turns out that if you unwittingly jump up and down on a piece of board laid over a cinder block, and beneath the aforementioned board is a yellow jacket’s nest, the occupants of said nest get a bit testy and swarmy.  The best thing to do in that situation is stand still-ish and scream until a parent runs into the angry swarm, scoops you up, and then tries to work through what to do next.  It turns out bleach is an amazing remedy.  Basic science: bases neutralize acid.  Another fun fact: wasp stings are alkaline; however, yellow jacket stings are in fact acidic.  This is also one of the few times you’ll hear me say that I’m glad I wore glasses at an early age. I had yellow jackets protesting the kid induced earthquake in my face, but my eyes were reasonably safe.  Jay recently (last weekend) noted my extreme distaste for yellow jackets when he offered to set a nest on fire, and I didn’t bat an eye.  “Yes, do that!” I cheered him on enthusiastically. Normally setting things on fire from a can sounds extremely dangerous and like something to be avoided at all costs.  I genuinely don’t advocate that kind of thing, but I balanced that against how I really despise yellow jackets (blame them and their early declaration of war on my body).  Anyway, as I said I don’t advocate it until a nest appeared underneath my BBQ pit, and it’s only by pure luck that I noticed it.  I had been thinking “let’s BBQ things! Carbon kissed veggies and meats!”  Had I not seen it, I would have disturbed the nest and Yellow Jacket-a-Geddon Part Deux would have been hosted on my face.  So yeah, burn that thing down. Also try not to let the can explode in your hand, but if that happens well sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good  (Please don’t tell my father. Wasps are useful. They play an important part in the larger ecosystem.  They help with mosquitos?  That’s what their PR worker bee/wasps claim at least.  We love them. Mmm hmm.  Now grab an aerosol can and a lighter.)  

There you have it,  a few of the  things I learned at an early age in our little corner of trailer heaven.  And people claim nothing good comes out of a trailer park. Hah!  Next up, ghost stories – the one and only time I saw a ghost, and how that started an after-life fight that’s still rages on.

Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and His Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-Eating Bride: An Autobiography

When I started this blog some 9 years ago (good grief) the main goal was to practice writing. If I could somehow amuse my family and friends then that was a bonus.  If I could force them to continue to read without amusing them (as I’ve managed to do), then that was like a super double bonus plus! Go loyalty! The focus or theme or what have you was to write-up anecdotes using the style I’ve always used – the “style” (I really feel that needs some air-quotes) being how I tend to write letters (now emails) to friends.  I’m all over the place – like this paragraph.  They never minded that bit, seemed to encourage it at times, “you write like you speak,” and thus you suffer. Shake your head at them.

I’ve been waiting for a good anecdote to share, but unfortunately an interesting one hasn’t really risen up.  I suspect it’s because I travel in the wrong circles.  That’s right friends, I’m calling you out – you and your clear lack of “right” circle-ness. There’s a geometry joke in there.  Ok, sure there was the one guy at the Humane Society last week.  His fit-pitching was fairly epic as I waited patiently(ish) to ask about a fluffy sole who was clearly calling to me behind the glass, but again not much of a story since I walked out without being helped. His fit had reached a new exciting blend of frustration and confusion over some fairly simple rules. (For the record, Humane Society rules are just not that hard, guy! You don’t have a permanent place for a cat.  One day you will, but that’s not today.)  I also managed to smash a joint on my thumb on the same day.  I keep insisting it’s purple and at least five times bigger than it was earlier in the day only to be asked by these so-called friends while comparing the thumbs side-by-side, “which thumb is it?” Uh, the big purple one!  (It’s purple on the inside?)  It still smarts – probably nerve damage.  It will likely have to be removed. Sadly, it happens to be the thumb I hit the space bar with. Soon my writing will be devoid of spaces.  Iapologizeinadvance.

So, in light of this writing lull and to keep practicing (because after 9 years there hasn’t been any noticeable progress)  I’ve resolved to write an autobiography of sorts.  I know, right?  Some of history’s most famous and infamous people have them and now we can add famous, infamous and Beth. It’s a literary milestone.

I’ll start off slow.  I don’t want to completely overwhelm you with the life and times of the lower middle-class all at once – the adventures of a monolingual speaker who has barely escaped the borders of their state much less the country.  Hey, there was that time I went to Canada.  Boy, talk about culture shock! Loonies and toonies – where do they come up with that stuff?

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (So I’m reminded in song.)

They claim this is a photo of me, but really it could be anyone. Parents, just because you wrote my name on the back doesn’t prove anything. I’m watching you!

I was born.  At least that’s what I’ve been told, and as proof I’ve been presented various papers and a book with a few photos documenting the event.  It’s all rather convenient and a bit suspicious if you ask me. Some of the photos show these youthful kidults who I can confirm did grow up to be my parents. They look a bit tired in the earlier pictures. I’m told they remained that way for approximately 18 years and then something inexplicable happened that made them look and feel lighter. I’ve never been able to identify precisely what changed, but it must have been fairly important.  Although, I admit I’ve seen the weight return over the years, which oddly corresponded with some big things in my life. Must be some sort of weird symbiotic thing.

Both of my parents were from Dallas.  Mom from Highland Park and Dad from South Oak Cliff.  If you’re familiar with Dallas, you understand the significance.  If you’re not, then to sum it up – Mom was born on the right side of the tracks (in fact those tracks aren’t even Dallas tracks, they’re tracks in their own city within Dallas) and Dad was born on the very wrong side of the tracks.  I later learned that many of Dad’s (and his family’s) numerous shortcomings had to do with his tracks (those shortcomings multiplied x10 each year post their divorce). I learned from Dad that people from the right side of the tracks (aka “your mother”) tended to marinate Spam in a lovely Dr. Pepper based sauce.  Dad wasn’t particularly good at lobbing insults.

I’m not really sure what initially drew them together.  Mom would say she thought Dad was smart, but was proven wrong; he was only social climbing – tricked her by claiming to read books. Clever guy! Dad said something along the lines of Mom was really nice and fun.  Bless his heart.

I’m personally from a trailer park in West Dallas.  Well, that’s probably not true.  My parents were both attending school when I was born, and I’m told we lived in Arlington.  There are more pictures that they claim  prove we lived there, but we could be any place, and I find these people somewhat sketchy.  I mean can you really trust Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and his Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-eating bride? (Just think, I am the product of that union; it actually  explains so much about my personality and my humor???)

Quick disclaimer to stop any gasping: I absolutely would tease my parents in this way.  In fact, I’m teasing Dad now.  Dad, you’re welcome!  To post a retort, I guess you’ll need to work on that new blog of yours.  Now you have incentive. You’re welcome, part two.

Next up, the trailer park! (In other words, I’m cutting this short and giving you a small reprieve.  There’s only so much “me” one should be forced to sit through in one day.)  And I’ll leave you with a little Julie Andrews, because I stupidly got this song stuck in my head where it is now firmly lodged.  I only have myself to blame.


You’ve seen the Twilight saga (it’s ok, this s safe place and any snickering on my part will subside soon enough) and now I present to you “Dunes” – a parody of the beloved movie franchise written as part of The Institution Theater’s Sketch 201 class featuring the most underused supernatural love interest.  I do suspect that after this sketch we’ll see more of “them” as romantic leads.  Yes, I’m being vague. I can’t go around spoiling things for you.  (Thankfully, you can’t see the YouTube still below, so it really will be a surprise.  Right? Right?!?!)

This is my second sketch to be filmed and I want to thank all the cast and crew involved in making it happen.  Thank you for your time, your energy, for letting me pay you in sodas, coffee, breakfast tacos and sandwiches.

Some special thanks to:

April – for helping me make the costume (we are now pros and our next supernatural costume of this sort will be even more awesome – lots.of lessons learned there), thanks for your ideas, for all the shopping trips, for letting us invade your space, re-arrange and decorate your room.  Also, huge thanks for all of the behind-the-scenes photos.  You were incredible as always.

Jonathan – thanks for taking care of the cast and crew, keeping everyone happy  and for knowing me well enough that when I get brain-locked, I don’t have to say a word – you just swoop in and do.  I hope you’re always available to PA.  You are awesome!

Richard – I cannot begin to thank you enough.  Without you and your talent this project wouldn’t have happened.  Thank you for volunteering so much of your time from filming to editing to providing the music, sound effects and of course the fantastic special effects.  You are terrific and it’s a great privilege to be a part of any shoot you’re on.  I truly feel guilty receiving any praise for this when so much of what made this work is you and your dedication.  I’m looking forward to shooting Clown Family and for borrowing you again to shoot my horrible family birthday sketch.

How to Kill an Angel

I killed an angel. Yes, I did and I’m afraid it wasn’t just one. I may have killed a bushel or a herd or a pod or a flock – flock sounds about right. Ok, I killed a flock of angels over the past couple of weeks and with that news, I hang my head in shame.

It started with my sketch writing class right after we wrote our very first sketch and then it continued when I wrote a revised version. See, in class there’s only a couple of rules and they are: “Do not apologize for what you write. Do not put down your work. When you do, an angel dies.” (When I first read the phrase “put down” I thought, “Really, I have to carry my notebook with me now? Is this some bizarre sketch writing hazing prank?”) Just to be clear, it wasn’t that I was purposefully hunting angels with my poor disposition. In fact, it happened quite innocently. We had 30 minutes to see how far we could on our first writing assignment and then BAM the time was over and it was my turn to read. Well, the laughs weren’t coming – not at all. I think the only positive sound I heard was maybe the sound of an appreciative snort, but that was it and it could have been in my head. The next thing you know, “I’m sorry” slipped right out of my mouth as I hung my head in shame. Then, I followed with “I’m sorry” because I realized I had just killed an angel. When I realized a second one had plummeted to the ground I mumbled, “I’m oh $#D D@MN!7 BAH!” and sunk into my chair mad at myself for nearly getting three before I was finished.

By the time I got home, I completely forgot about one of the rules and when asked “how did your first class go?” I shredded myself and my piece. You couldn’t get me to shut up. It was all very dramatic. Then I re-read the class rules and saw the “don’t put down your work” part. More swearing ensued. Thankfully swearing doesn’t kill angels or you could say goodbye to your personal guardians.

In class two, I made it through the whole class without commenting on what I’d written. Angels rejoiced! But on the way out of the door a friend politely asked if I was having fun. Oh boy. Those angels, who moments before had been high-fiving one another for dodging the, “Beth has something negative to say about her writing,” bullet started dropping left and right. Two improv teachers words of wisdom popped into my head. One is Tom asking “Are you having fun, Beth? Find the fun!” and then Shana, which had to do with how you present yourself to your audience after you feel like you’ve done something poorly. I guess it was a self-defense move. I didn’t want my friend to think I had any illusion that I could write and I wanted to express that I was embarrassed for myself. I shouldn’t do that. It puts people in an awkward position of having to try to make me feel better and that’s not fair.
I think there are two things that make this class exceptionally difficult for me. One is that I am the poorest sketch writer in the class. That’s not me being self-deprecating, that’s just me being completely out of my writing element. (It’s a class, we’re there to learn, blahblahblah.) I’m coming at this thing from the back of the pack and it’s really hard. My brain doesn’t think this way and where some people miss instructions like “write in first person,” I can’t actually tell you what my sketch is about. Wow. That’s a huge ego blow to find out that you don’t know what you’re writing about. I wish I had the other person’s problem of first vs. third problem. That’s easier to tackle. “Beth, what is this about?” “Kids coming of age.” “What is this about?” “Kids having an adventure and discovering a truth.” “Beth, what is this about?” “Fuck. I haven’t a clue.” “You have to know what you’re writing about or the audience won’t understand.”

The second one is that I shake uncontrollably. I can’t tell you what’s going on there. I was hoping that in the second class where other people would read my sketch that I’d be more in control (we cast the parts for the characters in the sketch and you get to hear how your words play out), but even then I started shaking. I didn’t read a single word and I was twitching uncontrollably. The hard part is I have to take suggestions when it’s over and I desperately wanted to type them into my laptop, but I physically couldn’t without drawing a lot of attention to myself, so I threw a notebook down and drove pen into paper so it would allow me to more naturally curl up. I used the pressure coming from my fist down on that pen to keep my hand steady. Even when I was cast for other people’s work, I had a slight tremble. I don’t think it was as noticeable, but it was there lurking in the background. This past year, I’ve had three performances where I’ve been on stage acting or singing and the shaking never manifested. Sure, it could be that I’m always there with a supporting cast or that the lights are dim and I can’t see the audience well, but still I’ve never shaken. I’ve never been bothered that I’m on stage. I’ve also never shaken when I’ve danced before a room full of people like in college when I was in modern dance or later on when I performed in tap shows. Maybe having been in dance recitals when I was younger created some safe pocket in my mind that said “the stage is ok” “the stage is safe”, but I’ve never felt that safe when reading. Who knows? I once asked in a class if I could just sit down, because I was making my class feel very uncomfortable from my visible shaking. There are probably several angles we could look at this from – anything from genetics, psychology, and environment to nutrition and we’ll still end up with me just being a twitchy weird individual. (It’s like living a dream! A crazy dream where I’m the sad sack everyone pities and I get supportive pats. Who doesn’t want that after stating “I want to be a princess! I want to be a ballerina! I want to be some twitchy fuck.”)

So, basically my flailing about at the bottom of the class combined with my involuntary spasms leads to angels falling from the skies. I’m sorry angels. I’m not actually gunning for you. I just get wrapped up in me and the next thing you know THWUMP. I’ll work on that. While I work on the not twitching and not killing angle, I’ll also work on giving myself a break and not abusing my work no matter how much my sketches suck.


Errr… right, working on that.

A Drought Jingle

As a people we’re usually good at putting a good spin on things.  Whether it’s the government convincing us that something unnecessary is a fine idea (DDT anyone?) or we’re trying to cover up for that family member who did something embarrassing. A tornado? Global devastation? We can make it fun!  A good PR firm knows if you can say the right thing in the right way to the right suggestible audience, you’ve potentially sold your product.  It’s similar to when you lower your voice to whisper something terrible like, “you know Frank just has the one testicle,” but instead of trying to hide it you offer up, “did you know Frank is at the next stage of evolution!  I think we’re going to be seeing more of those one ballers in the near future.  Lucky bastard!” If other people are excited about it, then we are, too!  It’s the happy train that keeps chugging forward.

We need positive spin to help us stomach the harder things in life whether we’re talking war, poverty, famine or any other horseman that joins the depressing parade that is sometimes life.  Bonus points when it’s something potentially tragic and we’re able to spin it into blaming the victim, but I’m going off-road a bit.

Here’s what I want.  I want a PR firm to take up the drought that’s devastating our state.  From here on instead  of seeing a glowing blood red depiction of our state, I want new fun colors (red and it’s little friends yellow and orange are forbidden), maybe rainbows built on blues or cheery little depictions of woodland creatures frolicking across the state with some catchy hip slogan that would work as a bumper sticker.  And a mother fucking jingle.  That’s right, I want to turn on the TV and I want  to see a dancing little cartoon singing about how awesome this is and showing the evils of water.  I want the puddles to look like vicious little wet demons hellbent on ruining everyone’s life.  Everything that relies on water (that are not human) will be villainized.  We need the ad company who worked on the roaches for the Raid commercials or maybe those guys that came-up with the toe nail fungus demon to step-up. I want them to pitch something that makes the drought seem fun and lighthearted while making the viewers want to boo and hiss at anything  with water – whether it’s rain, a meandering river or kids playing in a sprinkler.  If the American Indian with the  single tear cries  about pollution, I want viewers to sit up and see him as wasting a resource.  Maybe the pitchmen could even convince people that water is bad for you.  Sure, this might work against all the recommendations we’ve ever received from doctors and nutritionists, but if it lifts us up when the ground cracks, how can that be all that bad?

It might even have the benefit of finally selling people on the wacky ideas like water conservation or even xeriscaping.

Ultimately, I don’t care about the benefits.  I just want to feel happy when I see on the news “nine more years of drought predicted” because I have a song in my heart that makes it all ok.

Clouds make us sad
They can really turn things bad
When they take our sun away


In the Cards

Reaching back into the dusty archives of my brain, I realize there’s still maybe a story or two that I haven’t written down (and a quick search on the Mess reveals I’m not too far off on the actual count).  I know, I know, if I just went outside and interacted with people instead of holing up in my special cave world where light is afraid to shine, I might have more to share, but as all my little mole friends know – the outside is SCARY.

Right, you’re here for a story and not necessarily my idiosyncrasies (those are called “bonuses” or “perks”).

This is about Tarot and no, it’s not about that very strange reading Anna had in Jackson Square or the tarot reader who eavesdropped on my mother as she sat on the woman’s porch (mysteriously all the made-up facts Mom shared with her friend that accompanied her appeared in that reading).  No, it’s not that.  It’s not even my reading, because if it were my reading, I would do the reading and I’m a bit of a hack reader who can make a lovely Celtic Cross, but then sits back with a book going “ok, that there represents “change” and umm… “Page of Swords” *flip**flip* hrmmm, I see.”

This is about someone else’s reading and how they shared that information.

“Beth, I had my cards read last night.”
“We decided that one bit had to do with you.”
“Really.  How so?”
“Well, the cards said that there was someone in my life who was supposed to sing my praises.”
“Uh huh.”
“And we decided that was you.”
“I’m supposed to sing your praises?”
“Yes, you know – celebrate the things I do.”
“That’s what the cards said?”
“And what are YOU going to do for ME?”
“Well, if I’m standing around clapping for you, I really want to know what YOU are going to do for ME.
“The reading wasn’t about you.”

This went back and forth for some time until I crushed this person’s dreams of having her very own happy, dancing, applauding little minion.  She really tried her hardest to make me understand that the reading was not about me, so therefore I shouldn’t be  expecting anything – well, other than the sheer joy of cheering and praise singing.  That I refused to accept the divine word of a deck of cards bossing me around completely stunned her, and this was quickly followed by a good round of sulking.  

Something about the whole exchange reminds me of Monty Python’s Holy Grail “… Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you! …but if I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!”  Just substitute “deck of cards” or “poorly illustrated blobs of paper” wherever you see a reference to a sword.  As in:  You can’t expect me to perform like some genuflecting awe filled dancing monkey just because some watery tart threw out some poorly illustrated blobs of paper at you.

Anyway, there you have it.  This is easily in my top 10 favorite exchanges.  Sadly, I have to say that our friendship didn’t last much longer thanks to my inability to embrace my true subservient praise singing fate.  Shame on me.  I guess that part wasn’t in the cards.  (rim shot… sorry, I had to – I’m not proud)

Toast Masters: Recap

Ok, so I lied to you. I promised a recap on Thursday and I didn’t deliver. Those of you who know me well enough probably weren’t actually looking. You are well trained!

Let me start by saying I didn’t actually join on Wednesday. I discovered a loophole – a loophole that allowed me to attend as a “guest” and since the person who invited me didn’t flinch at the idea, I pretended like this was my intent all along. Guests only have to identify themselves in the meeting and mention what spurred them to attend. When my turn came around, I cheated by repeating what the woman who spoke before me said only I actually remembered to use my own name. Thankfully, we both work in the same area and we were both encouraged to come by the same person otherwise, there could have been a mess of awkwardness once my turn came around. “Hi, my name is Farzana. I’m the CEO of… no wait, can I have a do-over?” which would have sent me nervously digging through my purse to find my driver’s license.

The meeting opened with an invocation, followed by the word-of-the-day and finally a joke, which I didn’t get, but made me laugh pretty hard because the person who told the joke was really tickled. In fact, I want to hear more of her jokes, because physically she’s the best joke teller I’ve seen – she had a huge smile, she acted out all the characters in her joke, she clapped her hands at the punch line and then doubled over giggling hysterically. I couldn’t help but laugh. After the meeting, I had to ask someone to retell the joke. I tried to picture myself telling a joke and it wasn’t going well for me. In truth, I really don’t know any jokes. Well, there’s one about talking muffins and there’s the one that goes, “what’s green and has wheels? GRASS! …and I lied about the wheels” and another about Michael Jackson, which is now more inappropriate than usual. OH OH OH and there’s this other that ends with “I’m a frayed knot!” Get it? See, that reaction you’re having right now, it’s the same one I’d get if I delivered any of these rim-shot winners to a group.

The meeting focused around two speeches, each lasting approximately 5-8 minutes – both had very powerful opening statements and they were both well-delivered by the speakers. However, one speech did make me clench my hands together. The opening went “Everything is bigger in Texas” (dramatic pause) “including its people”. Fair enough. Good intro to begin talking about the growing problem with obesity in the state, but then he went a little further. “Some of YOU are obese.” Now, as the biggest person in the room who looks like they ate a couple of would-be attendees pre-meeting, I took that on the chins and had to force a smile. The woman next to me immediately shot me a look and whispered, “oh, I know he’s not talking about me” to which I replied, “well, he’s not talking about me!” Fortunately, at the end of his speech there wasn’t a Q&A, because I think the woman next to me “might” have drawn blood. In fact, on the way back to our little cube-mole world, she kept saying, “I wish there HAD been a Q&A for his speech. I had some questions for him!” Hey, points to him for entering a room filled with women to address a fairly sensitive subject and having the balls to gesture around the room noting the rampant obesity going on right before his eyes . That he escaped unscathed is a credit to both his speed and agility.

Overall, it was a fairly positive experience. The people in the club were kind and supportive of each other, which seems to push them to excel. Can I personally do it? I don’t know. As each member took their turn addressing the rest of the club, I imagined myself standing where they stood and that image always ended in a lot of stammering or vomiting or collapsing, which could end up being a self-fulfilling meltdown. I’d have to really work on picturing myself succeeding – maybe I could start small.

“What’s green and has wheels?”